[personal profile] flexibeast
Based on a series of tweets of mine beginning here.

Many people seem unaware of how the concept "gender is a social construct" - which many feminists believe to be axiomatic or unassailable dogma - has been used against trans people. Apart from the fact that it's a rather arrogantly totalising assertion1 - it's not, for example, typically paired with the phrase ".... which might have biological roots" - it has been, and still is, used to argue that trans people are at best psychologically confused, and at worst are furthering oppressive social relations based on gender.

For example: radfems use the bare concept "gender is a social construct" to argue that trans women only think we're women because of societal expectations around gender; basically, we're men who merely want to wear dresses, but the social construction of gender means that we feel we can only do that if we're women. We therefore claim we must be women2. Thus, radfems argue, those of us who think we're trans women need to accept we're really just men who don't fit social constructions of gender. i've witnessed this argument coming not only from radfems, but from people from other strands of feminism as well.

Another thing i've encountered from feminists is the argument that, since gender is a social construct, which has a hierarchy attached to it in which men are 'greater' than women, then, as it's socially constructed, it can, and indeed, should, be 'abolished' - a notion i've addressed here3.

i feel that, analogously to how radfem ideologies about sex work are quite prevalent in mainstream feminism, radfem ideas about 'transness', which are rooted in unsophisticated versions of the "gender is a social construct" meme, have "leaked out" of the radfem sphere into mainstream feminism, where they negatively affect how trans people, and trans women in particular, are treated.

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1. Which i find particularly interesting given that i have only rarely witnessed the same assertion being made about sexual orientation, i.e. i rarely see people who claim that "gender is a social construct" also claiming that "sexual orientation is a social construct". To me, there's at least as much reason to declare sexual orientation a social construct as there is gender.

2.. To be fair, there are a number of trans women who, whether under pressure from gatekeepers or otherwise, do indeed make such arguments (e.g. "I like sewing, that proves I'm really a woman!"). i'm not one of them.

3. And again, despite sexual orientation most definitely having a hierarchy attached to it, in which heterosexuals are 'greater' than non-heterosexuals, and homosexuals in particular, i've not often witnessed calls for sexual orientation to be 'abolished'.

Date: 2014-01-05 16:59 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] redbird
It seems to me that if gender were entirely a social construct, claims like "you only think you're a woman" would be somewhere between arrant nonsense and, at most, the assertion "I am from the part of society that gets to define these things, and you aren't."

It looks from here as though large parts of what we associate with gender are social constructs—most notably a lot of appearance and clothing-related rules, where long hair is coded masculine in one time/place, feminine in another, and childish in yet a third. But I don't think there's inherent conflict between the idea of performing gender, and the idea that many (most? hard to tell) people feel strongly that they are of a specific gender, and will try to fit the expectations for that gender as they exist in that society.

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